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Battling the Tiger: Combating corruption in the Sino-world

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After the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a new round of anti-corruption campaign has been going on. With almost fifty provincial officials, more than 600 director-level officials and more than 200,000 petty officials snared, this campaign is being conducted in a harsh way on a large scale.

More importantly, as Vice Primer WANG Qishan pointed out, the ultimate goal is to reach the “would not think of it”stage from the current “would not dare”stage. In order to realise this goal, the passive control and surveillance measurements which have been carried on over decades may not be able to meet the demand. What should be prior taken into consideration is institutional designs for a clean government.

If we look for a successful example for China on anti-corruption reform, Hong Kong may be a good one. During the 1960s, with the increasing population and the rapid expansion of manufacturing industry, Hong Kong was faced with a similar situation which corruption was wide-spread around the force and the community in mainland China nowadays. (Manion, 2004)And yet since 1974 when the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was created, the anti-corruption interventions has empowered to accomplish the transformation. This commission, according to the Basic Law, functions independently and is directly accountable to the Chief Executive. (Scott, 2011

So the paper is conducted by analysis on causes of corruption and anti-corruption measurements in mainland China, followed by the evaluation and comparison of Hong Kong and mainland China. Though sharing a Chinese culture, great difference remains between each other. Especially when we focus on the anti-corruption achievement, Hong Kong, considered as the freer market from government intervention, has incredible achievements in combatting institutionalised corruption while China, during two decades of anti-corruption campaign, remains one of the most corrupt countries.

This paper considers the rooted causes and problems of the anti-corruption strategy in mainland China. By introducing the incidence of Chen Xitong and the general situation on state personnel corruption, it argues extent, forms and characteristics and the institutional loopholes of Chinese government. Meanwhile, the process of the transformation in Hong Kong will be illustrated empirically and compared with the process in mainland China. The key part——ICAC will be evaluated. And the suggestions of establishing such commission in mainland China will be introduced and tested. The main researching method is new institutionalism by focusing on the institutional design and informal practice in mainland China.

The definition of corruption

Corruption, simply speaking, means the abuse of power for illegal monetary transaction. One of the most comprehensive definitions that by a short simply wording incudes both a public and private sector corruption comes from a Vienna-based prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic: “Seemingly victimless, hidden trade-off between influence and gain” (Bajrektarevic, Palermo Treaty system, Addleton NY, 2011). The World Bank defines (public) corruption as the abuse of public office for private gains. However, when it comes to a definition in concrete terms which contain too much connotation.(Girling, 1997) In addition, the causes and the results of public-private sector corruption are diverse. It can be traced in governments and civil societies, which include economic systems, administrative systems, judiciary systems and so on. (Harris, 2003) No matter how broad and complicated the concept is, it can reflect rules and violators who against those rules can be identified and punished. (Gambetta, 1999)

In the Chinese context, there are two major definitions that can be applied to China in the transition period. For those who are in favor of a tough enforcement and party disciplinary, they would like to provide a more broad-based definition which includes public offices, public interest and public opinions factors. By contrast, for those who are in favor of an effective effacement and market efficiency, they would focus on the abuse of public office. (Sun, 2004) Though there is no formalistic answer to the question on what the definition is, this paper would use a definition corresponding with the Chinese context. The corruption is defined as the abuse of authority or the public power by occupants in the government or the party to gain private interests. This interpretation narrows down to the public office level that focuses on the abuse of public power in the political activities.

Corruption in Mainland China

The process of corruption in China after 1949 can be roughly divided into two periods. There is the classical communist period from 1949 to 1976 and the socialist market from 1976 to the present. (Harris, 2003)

From 1980 on, the development of corruption took place together with the legitimating of financial pursuit, delegation of power to an individual or an agency, fast expansion of the market economy, deficiency of the Party’s discipline as well as delaying in introducing regulatory control and required on time legislative renewal. (Kwong, 1997)

One case disclosure shocked the public. That is that the mayor of Beijing——Chen Xitong was found directly engaging in bribe taking, with numerous bribe givers and huge material rewards. Even for Chen Xitong, whose downfall is often interpreted as political, the size of his booty warranted his fate. Two private villas, where Chen spent his leisure time and kept his mistresses between January 1993 and February 1995, cost the public nearly Y40 million in maintenance fees, and Y1.05 million in catering expenses. According to Sun (2004), “The villas were filled with luxuries ranging from gold doors and agate floors to extensive maintenance and security. Eventually, he was sentenced to 16-year jail term. ”(p. 148).

In Alan Liu’s categories, the forms of corruption in mainland China can be roughly divided into three groups. The first one is universal in all political systems including bribery, embezzlement and abuse. The state property is still a main target but not the only one. Instead, it is the greater inducement from and dependence on the market that now defines the forms and methods of violation. The second type is related to the economic reform, such as accounting violation and privilege seeking. When decentralisation was carried on gradually, autonomy and increasing resources have facilitated corruption dynamically. Precisely, there is linkage between economic liberalisation and corruption. Third one is resulted from moral degradation in a broad way. Sun (2004) states that “even here the marketplace has stimulated distinctive forms of moral deviation in recent years.”(p. 51).

Causes of corruption in China

The growth of corruption is considered as a policy outcome.(Gong, 1997)It results from mainly the economic reform in an unconscious way during the reforming and opening period. In general, economic reform which is for market development and economic growth, has built up the advantageous condition for the explosion of corruption. Increasing business opportunities, the looser economic policies and the higher payoffs motivated officials to get involved in corruption.

To break through the planned economy which made the economy in China stall market economy was introduced to China 30 years ago. Wedeman (2012) states “this reform help China accomplish an economic miracle,” which also makes China lie on the top in the international community. As the continuous development of market economy and reform and opening going deeper, corruption has come out as an ineluctable social phenomenon.

During the reform of economy, market competition is one of the most important factors which cannot be underestimated. When analysing the relationship between market economy and corruption, both western and Chinese scholars found out the paradox. There is a negative correlation between economic growth and corruption. Firstly Paolo Mauro, followed by other economists, found that the higher the rate of corruption is, the lower the rate of development is. Empirically, they drew out a conclusion that when the rate of corruption increases one point, it results in the reduction of one percent in economic growth. Theoretically, this statement also can be correct because equality and justice are the key factors of market competition. However, this kind of developmental corruption model cannot successfully reflect the facts in Mainland China where we can see the increasing corruption rate together with the fast development of market and economic growth. Some severe realities are quite obvious. The number of officials corrupting keeps increasing. The involvement in business field of governmental officials is enlarged. Corruption, originally a concealed individual behaviour, is turning into an organised collusion such as Shanghai Gang. (Gong, 1997)

As I mention before, there is a paradox about the relationship between market economic growth and corruption. Admittedly, corruption keeps developing in Mainland China together with the rapid growth economy. Gong Ting (1997) uses a conceptual framework which is the interactions of formal and informal practice from new institutionalism to give the explanation. She believes that corruption, as an informal practice, is actually a production of formal practice with loophole. They are interactional to some extent. To stamp out corruption, the starting stage should be on the amendment towards formal practice such as legal framework, judicial system and institutional design.

As for the judicial system, she also points out that the wide spread of corruption is facilitated by the way the courts are organized and supervised. The courts, in mainland China, are not different from other governmental agencies. They are not independent. The local government decides the finances of the courts. Senior judges are nominated by the local CPC Committee and endorsed by the local People’s Congress, meaning judges whose decisions are seen to violate Party policy may be discharged or otherwise punished. The courts are subject to the extra-legal authority of the Political-Legal Secretary of the local Party Committee, which deals with difficult and important cases referred to it. (Manion, 2004)

Anti-corruption strategy in Hong Kong

What makes Hong Kong’s economy successful? Several points below are worthy being remarked such as low tax collection, freedom in market competition, a relatively efficient legal system, an efficient and effective network on transportation and communication and “a competent workforce working along with a pool of enterprising entrepreneurs”described by Howlett (1997, p.47) (as cited in Manion, 2004). Those factors not only significantly contribute to the economic development in Hong Kong but also enable Hong Kong’s economic wealth which does good to combatting corruption as the government can afford the salaries of civil servants and enough human and financial resources can be committed. (Quah, 2003)

Different from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (Zhongjiwei), the ICAC operates independently in terms of structure, power, finance and personnel. Before 1997, there was a direct access between its Commissioner and the Governor. After July 1997, the ICAC is directly responsible to the Chief Executive. So far, the ICAC has developed into three major functions which are investigation, prevention and education to fight against corruption in Hong Kong. (Scott, 2011)

The Structure of the ICAC

As for its structure, there are main three unequal branches and the Administration Branch. Among the three departments, the largest one which is the Operation Department takes the responsibility of the investigative function. The over nine hundred employees takes up 73% of the ICAC human resource. The head of the Department also serves as the Deputy Commissioner, assisted by two Directors who are in charge of the government sector and the private sector respectively. The second largest one is the Community Relations Department. The two divisions of this Department are mass media and the public. It has 202 staff which is 16% of the total staff in the ICAC. Intensive education projects are conducted in schools and business sectors. In addition, it also builds up a close relationship between mass media and district organisations in order to raise the public awareness and gain their support towards the anti-corruption movement. The smallest department is the Corruption Prevention Department (CPD), taking up 4% of the total employees in the ICAC. In concrete terms, the objectives of the CPD is to inspect the practice and procedures of government and public bodies. Also, it takes the responsibility of making amendments and suggestions on the working methods. Training for civil servants is also offered by the CPD for the purpose of prevention. Apart from these three departments, there is a separated administration department. It is in charge of human and financial resources and general matters such as accommodation and technologic service. Besides, an advisory committee is to examine the work of each department.

The ICAC also has its own recruitment practice. The employees are recruited out of the control of the Public Service Commission, which makes the staff of the ICAC separate from other governmental sections. During the recruitment process, the ICAC itself takes the whole responsibility of promotion, screening, interviewing and other process. As for the financial fund of it, by the 2001/2002 financial year, its budget has reach 81 times compared from the first year when it was established. This rapid increasing in budget reflects the strong will of the government on the support of the ICAC anti-corruption enforcement. (Quah, 2003)

Comparison on Anti-corruption Strategy in Mainland China and Hong Kong

Institutional Designs

The main difference in mainland China and Hong Kong is the anti-corruption agencies. In Hong Kong, the ICAC is an independent agency with power and increasing budget. More importantly, the Commissioner of the ICAC is directly answerable to the Chief Executive, which makes the ICAC a separated agency apart from other governmental departments. (Harris, 2003) However, in mainland China, unclear boundary exists between the party and government branch. Junctional jurisdictions are dominated by communist party committee generalists at each level. The second point is the institutional design. In Hong Kong, one of the three important methods of anti-corruption is the prevention through institutional design is; in mainland China, certain economic reform policies actually stimulate corruption. Reorganisation of procedures to reduce incentives for corrupt transaction has been shown recently. Finally, the analysis will go back to the basic ground of anti-corruption strategy which is the constitutional design. This essential difference lies in the two different regimes. Hong Kong has a functioning rule of law regime and effective civil liberty while mainland China is conducted by a rule of law regime less constructively and neglect of civil liberty. (Manion, 2004)

Hong Kong’s institutional design not only focus on the enforcement measures but also pays high attention to the prevention by offering suggestion. The ICAC’s Corruption Prevention Department is to study the work procedures in governmental departments to identify opportunities for corruption. (Manion, 2004) Having studied and analysed, suggestions would be offered so as to reduce the possibility of corruption by redesigning the working procedures. Further, after the suggestions are given, the Department is still in charge of checking the effectiveness of the suggestions, making sure the new design would not offer ground for new chances for corruption. The function as consultant is one of the key and unique notion of this department, especially when the government is on its way to draft and amend legislative text and policies. To a great extent, this function makes sure the anti-corruption movement starts from the beginning level where new laws are introduced for an incentive purpose.

Also in mainland China recently, more attention has been paid towards designing incentive structures from the original forcemeat stage. In Anhui province in 2000, the “taxed for fees” reform was adopted from the perspective of being incentive. The reform is to reduced possibility of corruption in the township governments and villages by reforming the basic collection system. It replaces a single agricultural tax, capped at about 7 percent of income and collected by higher level governments, for various fees and charges levied by township and village administrations. Compared with the previous regulations against illegal fees in 1990s, Manion (2004) described that “the reform frees officials at the rural grassroots level from fee collection and makes corruption at the township and village more difficult.”(p. 205) In 2003, this reform was successfully adopted nationwide, becoming a good example in mainland China of transforming to the incentive structure.

According to policy analysts, the key part of institutional design in Hong Kong is the independence of the ICAC and it is what mainland China should emulate when reforming the anti-corruption strategy. This refer to the exclusive anti-corruption mission of the agency: “The ICAC is not embedded in the civil service or any other larger organisation with multiple goals”. Among this, the most important is the police force remaining independent, especially in the 1973 context of a public perception of that department as the most corrupt of all. Agency independent worked in Hong Kong primarily because this agency design worked as a signal, a public announcement of an “equilibrium switch”——but it worked especially well in a particular context. With corruption structured this way, the creation of an agency that effectively rejected the police as anti-corruption agents helped legitimate the government effort and enlisted ordinary citizens as voluntary enforcers. Independent was complemented by power, also an element of agency design: the ICAC was given strong investigate powers and considerable financial resources.

Legal Framework

Difference also lies in the law set in Hong Kong and mainland China. The reasons behind it are partly contributed by the different policy choices which illustrate different experience and views. From a perspective of a higher degree, however, basic difference on constraints of power should be noticed.

A solid legal foundation has become the base of Hong Kong’s anti-corruption reform. Two important legislative context have to be introduced. The Prevention of Bribery Ordinance was strengthened in 1971. It provided with a clear definition by including “unexplained income or property”which can serve as the evidence of corruption practices. Clarity, stability, scope and whether it is easy for application, all the points above greatly influence on whether and how a corrupt official can be punished according to law. (Quah, 2003)

To build up a clear legal basis, several points should be well defined. Legal clarity, breadth, stability, and ease of application all contributed to a situation where corrupt officials were routinely punished according to law. And the public confidence of the anti-corruption enforcement is also, to some extent, basing on whether the law is harsh without loopholes.

On the contrary, in mainland China, the main force on combatting corruption is centralised by the CDIC which plays as a leading and administrative role. But as for the legal system itself, it remains weak.

What depletes the development of law and a legal-based authority in mainland China? One point should be noticed that under the leading of the CDIC, the investigation and punishment are conducted within the party system. This makes lag when a criminal case is transferring into the prosecution process. So the agency design which makes anti-corruption enforcement outside the criminal procuratorates system may be one of answers to the question above. (Gong, 2004) Besides, the law making process is also not propitious. The first criminal code was passed in 1979. Then comes rapid changes on political economy which forced law makers refine the law with taking lots of new factors into consideration. The role of law and its distinction between party leadership shows a fundamental contradiction in mainland China. The law should serve as a powerful tool to fight against the abuse of official power. (Manion, 2004)

Conclusion

China’s path of corruption is actually quite similar to the process in Hong Kong, rapid growth in population and economic transition. By viewing Hong Kong as a good example of mainland China, we can find basically one main loophole which is the ambiguity of power between the party and judiciary from both legal and institutional prospective. If mainland China are going to set up an independent agency like ICAC in Hong Kong, a clear boundary must be well-defined. First of all, as for the institutional setting, it is to avoid the interference from the government and the party in order to ensure authority and transparency of this agency. Second, it is to reduce delay when a corruption crime transferred from the investigation of the party to the prosecutors. Further, even though the “fight against tigers”movement achieve success for the current situation, refining the present legal framework still remains the determinant.

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The Global-south Geopolitical and Geoeconomic Landscape and China’s Growing Influence

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The importance of China’s CPEC project in the region and the obstacles it faces. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is an international economic project for China that China has been pursuing for years and wants to maintain good economic, diplomatic and military relations with Pakistan. In addition, terrorist activities have been going on in Pakistan and the region for years against this project in order to stop this Chinese economic project. This is because the East Asia trade route connects to Central Asia through China’s CPEC project and for China, energy enters China through this alternative trade route, and trade goods from China reach the Gulf countries and Africa. In addition, the Central Asian states benefit greatly and Central Asia is further liberates from the Western political and economic network. The economic and political significance of the CPEC project, the obstacles it faces, the impacts of CPEC.

On the West led- by US, and the elements that create the barriers to CPEC prevention will be scrutinized later, it is worthwhile to briefly discuss the introduction and background of the CPEC project. The China International Economic Project or China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is a set of basic economic projects, which was first established on May 22, 2013 between the two countries, China and Pakistan, for the purpose of lasting political and economic relations. Under the project, China will invest 62 billion USD in the CPEC project in Pakistan, building economic zones, trade roads, railways, dams and bridges across Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is essentially a one-belt, one-way BRI initiative for China’s next international economic project, The BRI project is once again seeking the restoration of China’s historic Silk Road and the sea “String of pearls.”

What is the significance of the CPEC project for China and why does China want to invest so much in a country that is a puppet of the West?

 The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) serves as an alternative economic transit route for China connecting West China to Central Asia. In this way, China will be able to import raw materials from Central Asia and Africa at low cost and as a result, it shipped its goods from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa via the Pakistani port of Gwadar via highways and high-speed trains. In this way, China will expand and strengthen its trade relations with Europe, and China will strengthen its strategic horizons through projects such as CPEC.

Through this project, China can push Pakistan into economic poverty, which will be under the economic domination of China for all ages, and China will gain world-class economic power. China will provide employment to about 80,000 Chinese nationals in Pakistan and the Chinese people will be rich along with the Chinese government through this project. China, as an industrial base in the region, needs huge amount of energy and to meet this need, China wants to first activate China’s economic and industrial zones in Pakistan.

And then using Pakistan’s hot water to get energy from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, China’s energy needs are being met by the CPEC project, which is therefore of strategic importance to China. The China’s CPEC project will lead to economic integration with China in the Middle East and Central Asia, both of which have vast oil reserves, And China will be a big market for them, and as a result, China’s influence in both areas will increase. Through China’s CPEC project, China will not only strengthen its economic infrastructures in Pakistan, but Pakistan will repay the Chinese loan to China with interest, In such a case according to the SBP’s May 2022 report, Pakistan’s total of former debt stood at Rs 53.5 trillion.

What is the political significance of CPEC project for China?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which is being implemented in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, and then will connect the economic corridors to the Pakistani port of Gwadar. Xinjiang province, a strategic region in western China, has been plagued by Uyghur terrorist activity for years. The inhabitants of the area are Uyghur Muslims, who have long been oppressed and persecuted by the Chinese government and trained in forced camps.

Chinese police have imposed various restrictions on Uyghur Muslims, and there are reports that Uyghur Muslims have been banned from buying knives. China’s security services claim that Uighur Muslims are inciting public people to extremism and war in Xinjiang province to stop China’s economic projects in the West. In short, the region can pose a potential future threat to develops China, and China’s future aspirations for an economic empire could be shattered. In short, the region can pose a potential future threat to develops China, and China’s future aspirations for an economic empire can be shattered. However, China’s CPEC project against the West not only thwarts this Western conspiracy, but also promotes development in the Xinjiang region and stabilizes the region and brings lasting peace to the region. In order to hinder China’s economic development, international rivals have been trying to train terrorist groups in the region through Pakistan and destabilize the region in order to block China’s international economic projects.

But that both China and Pakistan have a central role in the CPEC project and both countries want stability in the region, So security barriers against China and the potential threat of China’s secession of the western part of the country or Xinjiang will be eliminate. Under the pretext of protecting the CPEC project, China will build a large military base in the hot water at the port of Gwadar, through which China can bring the countries of the region, especially India under its naval control; And Chinese naval forces will conduct naval patrols near to the India water. Through the CPEC project, not only China can able to  strengthen its foreign policy, but also the strengthening of China’s most important and significant domestic policy in relation to Xinjiang.

For years now, Uighur Muslims in Kashgar, Xinjiang, have been fighting at home and abroad to establish a state called East Turkestan in Kashgar, And the Kashgar region is the center of implementation of the BRI project and one of the most important and strategic areas for China. Uighur Muslims are being trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria to liberate Kashgar and are waging an armed struggle against China through the ETIM group. Nevertheless, if China implements the CPEC project, Xinjiang will have great economic value; And Uyghur Muslims living in the area will be offered jobs in modern factories in order to find work. And the people of the region will not only stop fight in Kashgar for love of money and wealth, but will also fight against other foreign groups in Xinjiang to bring stability to Kashgar. In addition to domestic policy, the CPEC project is also a major contributor to China’s foreign policy.

As China expands its economic presence in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, it will also expand its military and intelligence presence in areas that are a major victory for China against the West.

What is the economic and political significance of CPEC project for Pakistan?

Pakistan has been a Western colony since 1947 and to this day has been used exclusively for the benefit of the West and has reached the last level of debt owed by the West economically. Through the implementation of the CPEC’s project, more areas of Pakistan are gaining economic value, where trade routes reach Gwadar port, such as: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh and occupied Kashmir or PoK. In addition, the project will activate about 37 economic zones in all cities of Pakistan, employ 40,000 Pakistani workers and reduce poverty in the country. From China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, major trade routes and roads for vehicles, railways, electricity import systems and agriculture will be included. With the implementation of the CPEC project, various development projects will be needed in the un-promoted areas of Pakistan, such as Baluchistan and Sindh, and the poor people of these areas will become rich. Residents of Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Sindh are facing severe water shortages, the heat in these areas is much higher than in other parts of Pakistan, and many parts of these provinces are facing power shortages to provide cool air systems. However, through the CPEC project, the import power companies will be activate in these areas and the dams will be activate to prevent water shortage and the residents of these areas will have a comfortable life.

In addition, business professionals will be train in Pakistan and the development of skilled business people will be another objective of the project. Under CPEC project, 21 large and small energy projects are being implemented in Pakistan, which will enrich the country in the field of energy. On March 19, 2021, the Voice of America or VOA released a report stating that (Pakistan had connected its new Chinese-built nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts to the national network. Islamabad now plans to generate about 8,800 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2030 and 40,000 megawatts by 2050. China has also built at least nine coal-fired power plants in Pakistan over the past six years, with the rest under construction, which helps the South Asian country effectively overcome the years of energy crisis). Based on these reports and political analysis, China plans to activate more nuclear power plants in and around Karachi, which could reduce India’s role in the region. What is the political significance of this CPEC project for Pakistan? Pakistan, which has been a Western colony for many years, and in addition to its political independence, its economic independence is also under US-led Western domination.

Pakistan’s military, religious and political parties, commercial companies and Pakistan’s land operate dependently under the leadership of Britain and the Western community. Through the CPEC project, Pakistan is gaining some leeway in all these areas and is also using China as a powerful trading and military power in Asia as a partner in the PoK dispute against India. Pakistan can rid Pakistan of the presence of pro-Western terrorist groups and militants who have been trained in Pakistan for years to control China and Russia in the region such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, TTP, Baloch separatist group under the umbrella of BLA. And Pakistan will also eliminate terrorist groups that have been trained by the Pakistani military and the ISI network against India and Afghanistan, and have been largely funded by Pakistan’s military budget.

What are the disadvantages of CPEC for Pakistan?

1. China will first activate its military bases near the Economic Corridor in Pakistan to protect CPEC and will deploy its troops at those bases. However, China will secretly increase its military presence and reach out to the Gulf region, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, making Pakistan a Chinese military colony in the next few years. 2. The large presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan will accuse Pakistan of being against India as it is clearly besieging India. 3. China will have a naval base at the Pakistani port of Gwadar that will occasionally enter the Arabian Sea, thereby straining relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 4. Under the guise of jihad and the history of extremist militants under the umbrella of Islam, it is clear that they will rise up against the large Chinese presence on Islamic soil and declare jihad against the Chinese troops. In addition, there, Pakistan will bring in Chinese troops in direct combat with Islamist militias.

The Chinese military is ruthless and can destroy groups that not only provoke Middle Eastern sentiment but also worsen the situation inside and outside Pakistan. The importance of CPEC and the support of CPEC for the countries of the region. In the region, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia also support CPEC because the benefits of this project not only reach China and Pakistan but also all the countries in the region. Such as Russia and Russia supports this project. This is because after Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, the CPEC project became important as an alternative trade route for Russia. Because Russia has always wanted to find its way to Pakistan’s hot water through war, but now there is a golden opportunity for Russia to reach Pakistan’s hot water without a fight. The CPEC project is also important for Iran and it wants to play a significant role in the implementation of this project in the region. Iran has been a country under economic sanctions imposed by the West for years, but the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project can ease the pressure on Iran. China and Iran have enjoyed good diplomatic relations for years and on March 27, 2021, a 25-year cooperation agreement called P.R. was signed between the Foreign Ministers of China and Iran in Tehran. It includes political, military and economic cooperation between the two countries for 25 years.

China wants to invest 400 billion in Iran in response to Western economic sanctions on Iran, as well as build a large market for Iranian oil in Xinjiang. The CPEC project is also beneficial for Afghanistan as Afghanistan is important for connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asia. In addition, there is an excellent motor transit route from Kandahar province to Gwadar port through which Pakistani goods can enter Central Asia within a short distance. In this way, more taxes can be collected for the Afghan government and thus Afghanistan can and will be able to transport its goods cheaply through Gwadar port. John Achakzai’s article, published by CPEC Research and Development Foundation on September 20, 2021, states: (Imran Khan, after returning from a visit to Tajikistan, spoke to the Afghan Taliban administration that it should immediately look for a separate route from the Gwadar corridor to connect Islamabad with Dushanbe.

This is how it should look: The handover of trade routes along the Wakhan Strip in return for the Kandahar-Dalbandin Gwadar corridor. With the Wakhan Strip in exchange for corridor between Kandahar and Herat through Balochistan’s Dalbandin–nearer to Ahmadwal/Noshki (for Afghan transit trade) to Gwadar as part of CPEC/BRI, Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan can create a new geo-economic alignment never seen before). The CPEC project is also important for India, but the PoK dispute between India and Pakistan has remained unresolved for years, so India opposes its implementation.

Which countries and elements obstructing against the CPEC Project?

The United States is the first country to oppose the China-Pakistan economic project, which it does not want to implement. Because the implementation of this project not only liberates the Middle East from American control but also reduces the role of the American empire of many years in the African countries, In contrast, the Middle East and Africa will be under Chinese economic and military domination. The United States has been waging an economic war against China for years to give China an economic blow, but the implementation of the CPEC predicts US defeat. The United States will never support activities that empower China, and the United States wants to maintain financial instability in Pakistan so that Pakistan remains a US-led Western ally for time.

 The United Arab Emirates, along with the United States, has secretly opposed China’s CPEC project to protect the importance of its trade ports, because they fear that if the port of Gwadar becomes an economic and clean port, it will affect the ports of the United Arab Emirates. They also fear that if Gwadar becomes a global deep-sea port it will become a hub for global maritime trade and the UAE’s commercial ports will lose their former economic status. India also opposes CPEC because the China-Pakistan International Economic Corridor project is also being implemented in PoK and Pakistan and Indian border forces have been fighting in this area for years. In addition, Pakistan has been supporting terrorist groups for years to maintain the PoK, and it wants to use terrorist groups against Indian forces in addition to its own troops.

India, on the other hand, is the only country in Asia to compete with China in terms of economic and military strength, and with the implementation of the CPEC project, China will become much more economically strong than before. Under the CPEC project, China will activate its military base at the port of Gwadar and occasionally conduct maritime patrols in Pakistan’s warm waters, which is essentially a blockade of India. These are the reasons why India opposes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and also India does not want to participate in the BRI project. Obstacles to China’s economic project are extremist groups seeking to take action against China from northern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, moreover, the liberation of Kashgar and the creation of a country called East Turkestan in Kashgar.    

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Five key challenges awaiting Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee

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Hong Kong’s leader-in-waiting John Lee has officially been appointed as the sixth-term chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) after receiving his appointment letter from second-ranked leader and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his four-day trip to Beijing late last month.

During the trip, Lee also met Chinese President Xi Jinping who praised him for defending national security and expressed confidence in the city’s next chief’s ability to take Hong Kong to new heights.

Lee is scheduled to assume office on July 1, which marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule and the halfway point of its “One Country, Two Systems” political model, which originally aimed to safeguard the city’s freedoms and way of life for at least 50 years. As he prepares to take up the top job next month, there are five major challenges awaiting the 64-year-old chief executive-elect.

Healing a divided society

One of the biggest challenges facing Lee is how to heal and repair social divisions after the massive and violent anti-government protests in 2019, which have left many people in the city disappointed, upset, frustrated, and angry. David Dodwell, chief executive of Strategic Access, said the new leader must deal with the divisions that sit “at the heart of Hong Kong,” which have not gone away.

Lee has vowed to repair ties with the younger generation and the anti-government camp by “using his actions to persuade them and win their trust”. In his election manifesto, Lee also put forward the notion of “young people are our future” as he seeks to regain the youth’s trust. However, it will be a challenging task for Lee who is most remembered for his prior role as former security chief in suppressing the 2019 anti-government protests and implementing the controversial national security law imposed by Beijing. The national security law has caused concerns among people in the city to a certain extent, as they feared the law would curb many freedoms granted to them.

While it remains a significant challenge for Lee to curb dissent, his new administration must make continuous efforts to heal the social divide and unite all sectors of society in the city in order to forge ahead as a whole.

Enhancing the sense of patriotism and national identity

Strengthening patriotic education and national identity in Hong Kong, especially among youths, also poses a great challenge to Lee who is praised as a “firm patriot” by Xi. The city’s national education has always faced resistance since returning to mainland China. For instance, in 2012, tens of thousands of people took to the street to protest the implementation of the national education in the city as many Hong Kong parents, students and teachers feared that it would “brainwash” impressionable young minds with pro-mainland-Chinese propaganda.

According to a survey by Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) in 2021, more than 70% of respondents aged 18 and above identified themselves as “Hongkongers” while 26% identified themselves as “Chinese”.

In recent years, the city has implemented patriotic education in schools, such as launching courses related to national security and requiring schools to hold weekly flag-raising ceremonies. The move was described by critics as ‘indoctrination’, ‘dangerous’, and ‘ineffective’. It remains a challenging task for Lee to enhance the national identity among young Hongkongers as they could be misled by some external forces attempting to distort the curriculum of patriotic education in the city.

Solving the housing crisis

The housing crisis in the city is yet another pressing challenge Lee is going to face as he takes up the top job on July 1. The Asian financial hub, home to 7.5 million people, has consistently been named the most expensive city in the world when it comes to renting a luxury apartment or buying a house.

According to a recent study by ECA International, the city has once again maintained its position as the most expensive location in the world. This year, the city also remained the world’s least affordable housing market for the 12th consecutive year, according to a survey by Demographia.

Lee has pledged to make the city’s housing crisis a top priority. In his election manifesto, Lee said he would set up a “Task Force on Public Housing Projects” and a “Steering Committee on Land and Housing Supply” to speed up construction and develop private lands.

“All chief executives pledged to solve housing and livelihood issues when they came in. In the end, the problem of inequality and unaffordable housing continued to worsen,” said Hung Ho-fung, a political economy professor at Johns Hopkins University. It remains to be seen whether Lee will be able to address the deep-seated housing problem more effectively and successfully than his predecessors.

Reviving the economy

As Hong Kong emerges from more than two years of political crackdowns and strict pandemic measures, Lee will face the challenge of reviving the city’s battered economy which contracted 4% in the first quarter of 2022, one of its worst performances in the past 30 years.

To revive the city’s economy, Lee must relax border control measures to reconnect the city with the world. But Lee will be in a dilemma to balance between restoring cross-border travel with the mainland, which requires zero-Covid, and reopening internationally.

Given his extensive background in policing and security, critics have pointed out that Lee lacks the experience of his predecessors in handling financial and economic affairs. Tara Joseph, former president of the city’s American Chamber of Commerce, said Lee would be the first leader of the city who does not have much experience in business or managing an economy.

“Hong Kong has a lot of working to do in regaining the respect and admiration of the international business community, and it desperately needs to revive its economy,” she told the South China Morning Post, “so it will be interesting to see how a security-focused leader handles this.”

Recreating the image of Asia’s world city

Hong Kong has long been recognized as “Asia’s world city” that has built its reputation as a global financial and trading centre on the doorstep of China while maintaining its key freedoms and autonomy. However, the city’s global standing has taken a hit in recent years, especially after a series of traumatic events such as the 2019 social unrest, the passing of the controversial national security law, and the government’s handling of the pandemic. Some people in the city have even feared that the city will lose its competitive advantages to Shenzhen, China’s southern tech and economic powerhouse.

“It is one of John Lee’s major challenges to keep Hong Kong’s status as a financial center and global metropolis,” said Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy. In his policy plan, Lee vowed to repair Hong Kong’s standing as a global financial hub and bolster its competitiveness. To restore the city’s global status, it requires the opening of borders with the mainland and the rest of the world.

But Lee will still face the challenge of restoring business confidence after the city’s recent political turbulence and in the wake of current stringent quarantine measures. The city’s next chief will have to restore public trust in government and maintain the city’s stability and prosperity in order to increase the city’s global competitiveness in the foreseeable future.

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East Asia

A Vision of Regional Order by China: Security, Development and Prosperity

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Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe delivered a speech on “China’s Vision for Regional Order” at the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 12th, 2022, in which he expressed China’s willing of promoting a community of a shared future for mankind that based on multilateralism. Also the United States Secretary of Defense also send his remarks on the dialogue. Brookings called the two defense ministers of America and China presented a dueling narratives at Shangri-La dialogue.[1] As a matter of fact, Sino-U.S strategic competition is entering a new phase of strategic stalemate that both sides have no power to change the status quo, while keeping their own institutional confidence.

Kenneth Waltz argues that great powers enjoys more security space than weaker powers and has more discourser power on setting rules in terms of competition games. The United States has been in dominated position in East Asia region since the end of the Cold War with its strong economic, military and political strength. With its unstoppable development, China shows more determination in promoting a regional order that engaged multilateralism, shared prosperity and collective security, by which contrasts to the security idea that proposed by the United States, namely, U.S. and allies security first. The two different approaches also reveals their competition in regional and global governance.

The U.S. Secretary General Antony Blinken visited George Washington University and delivered a speech and declared that “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.” last month. [2] This clearly shows that the United States views China as a threat to international security. According to CNN, in his address to the Shangri-La, The U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin also accused “China was engaged in coercive, aggressive and dangerous actions that threatened to undermine security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.[3]The United States will continue to strengthen Indo-Pacific security and seek an Indo-Pacific region “free of aggression and bullying”. It is worth noting that Blinken also put forward a new concept of “integrated deterrence” to concretely explain America’s strategic deployment. This includes at least three aspects: maintaining strong military superiority and deterrence; Strengthening and integrating global alliances; The full range of overall containment, including economic, technical, diplomatic, and even the full range of military confrontation. In Singapore, Austin also pointed out that “the more China pushes boundaries in the region, the more the U.S. and its partners will tighten their bonds to deal with Chinese assertiveness”.[4]

But it is an obvious fact that China is not a threat to international security, this could be proved by history. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has never started a war on its own initiative. Instead, China has always adhered to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and settled disputes through dialogue and negotiation. China promotes economic and social development by integrating into the international community, and its international economic activities are based on the rules of the market economy. From that end, it is meaningless for China to become a “threat and challenge” to the current world order. In a 39,000 words article that published on June 19th, Chinese Foreign Ministry pointed out fallacies of the United States perception towards China and the truth, in which China firmly denounce the accusation from the U.S. that China poses the most serious long-term challenge to the international order and is undermining it.[5] China was, is and will always be a defender of the international order.

China should keep its strategic focus to avoid making misjudgment and to realize its great rejuvenation. Firstly, China should manage and govern its own domestic affairs to remain an absorbed attention on its economic development. With the abrupt outbreak of the COVID-19 and various mutant strain, from the perspective of protecting vulnerable groups, elders and children, China insists on dynamic zero clearance policy, which provides a stable environment for its domestic economic development and people’s health. Though temporary economic increasing speed appeared slight downgrading, China’s economic growth speed still remains one of top countries around the world, let alone its giant economic aggregate. Its economic development quality and speed would back to normal status with the recovery of the global market.

Secondly, China should process its diplomacy to contribute more in regional and global governance. In the International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation 2022 that held in Seoul, guest speakers from China pointed out that a secure, developed and peace environment for East Asia is needed, multilateral trade has bolstered common prosperity, and friendly atmosphere among East Asian countries is the spring and source of the cooperation. Under this circumstance, China’s diplomacy, especially building relations with neighboring countries based on friendship, good faith, mutual benefit and inclusiveness is critical.

Thirdly, China is supposed to embrace multilateralism and increase regional order resilient. Nowadays, international cooperation at the global level lacks momentum and positive feedback. It is more important than ever for the international community to strengthen cooperation in order to address the huge challenges facing mankind, such as COVID-19 and climate change. These challenges are not only difficulties that international community encounters, but also an opportunity to expand international cooperation and multilateralism. China has been insisting the multilateralism that centered on the United Nations, which is contrast to the United States approach that focus on traditional alliance foreign policy. Further, more flexible regional order could provide extra resilient and space for competition and cooperation. 

With the foundation of the abovementioned creed points, a vision of regional order by China has been vividly portrayed. Collective security rather than “U.S. and allies first”, common development other than “containment” and “trade war”, lasting prosperity of the region instead of “forging an Asian NATO”, China’s vision based on its developing power and ideas, embodied on its foreign policy and mutually benefited initiatives. Development and security of the region require all stakeholders to participate and endeavor to form a system that function well with effective international coordination and transnational collaboration. Reform that adapt to the new situation is necessary, and some attempts are achieving positive results. For example, collaboration with the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which covers all central Asia countries, is playing a significant role in maintaining peace cooperation and peace governance. Moreover, the international community should be vigilant against the actions that utilizing interdependence as a toolkit to contain others.

In a nutshell, the stalemate of Sino-US competition has been an important part of the regional security, different approaches that proposed by them should not embrace contradiction and conflict, but focus on coordination and collaboration, and most importantly, and restrain the former with the latter. All regional stakeholders ought to play a role in a more inclusive, and fair regional order. Only in this way, the new vision of regional order could be realized.


[1] Ryan Hass, America and China present dueling narratives at Shangri-La Dialogue. Brookings, June 14th, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/06/14/america-and-china-present-dueling-narratives-at-shangri-la-dialogue/

[2] Antony J. Blinken, The Administration’s Approach to the People’s Republic of China. May 26th, 2022. https://www.state.gov/the-administrations-approach-to-the-peoples-republic-of-china/。

[3] Brad Lendon and Heather Chen, China blasts US ‘bully’, says it will ‘fight to the end’ for Taiwan, CNN, June 12th, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/12/asia/us-china-defense-shangri-la-dialogue-intl-hnk-ml/index.html

[4] Ryan Hass, America and China present dueling narratives at Shangri-La Dialogue. Brookings, June 14th, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/06/14/america-and-china-present-dueling-narratives-at-shangri-la-dialogue/

[5] See Chinese Foreign Ministry website, Fallacies of the United States perception towards China and the truth. June 19th, 2022. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/wjbxw_new/202206/t20220619_10706065.shtml

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